I’m pretty sure my brother has the recording of the four of us on a Christmas morning. No sound, of course, on the film, but words weren’t needed to see we were rumpled and excited. I was 10 or 11.
The last time I saw the old 8mm film (converted to videotape), I watched my mom instead of my siblings. She was sitting near the tree in her pretty zip-up robe, a cup of coffee in one hand and a cigarette in the other. The bobby pins were still in her spit curls (those were side curls that hung down in front of your ears). And while I’m sure she was happy to see us unwrapping gifts, I’m also sure she was thinking about the house full of people she’d be serving brunch to in a couple hours.
Yes, it was a potluck, but I remember the array of her fancy platters and bowls she got out and set on the kitchen counter. Out came the good china and silver, too. The copper-clad chafing dish that sat in the breakfront 11 months of the year finally was put to good use. Mom unboxed the giant carafe that would hold a gallon or two of coffee. The extra card tables and chairs were set up for the overflow.
One of my jobs the week before was to iron the linen napkins. The rule was to starch them so much that the stains slid right off.
Nobody lived in a big house when I was growing up, so when family arrived on Christmas day, it was food mayhem in the kitchen. Men and children were banned to the “rec room” in the basement. I was old enough to help and wore my badge of honor, an apron my grandmother made for me.
What was served isn’t so different from what I see made today: a mix of breakfast and lunch, eggs and sandwiches, breakfast meat and casseroles. Desserts from coffeecake to pie.
Comfort food is pretty essential on Christmas morning. Here’s a sample of classic brunch recipes, some of which may have a modern twist to them. For example, if ham and cheese are put out for sandwiches, why not make Ham and Cheese Slab Pies?
Ham and Cheese Slab Pies
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons honey mustard
1 (17.3-ounce) package frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed (2 sheets)
6 ounces thinly sliced ham
1/2 of a medium red onion, thinly sliced
6 ounces thinly sliced Gruyere, Swiss, or Cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon water
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
2. In a small bowl, stir together cream cheese and mustard.
3. On a lightly floured surface, roll each sheet of thawed puff pastry into a 15-by-12-inch rectangle. Transfer each pastry to a prepared baking sheet; spread half of each lengthwise with cream cheese mixture, leaving a 1/2-inch border around outside edges.
4. Add individual layers of ham, onion and cheese over cream cheese layer, leaving a 1/2-inch border around outside edges.
5. In a small bowl, whisk together egg and the water. Brush on the uncovered edges of the pastries.
6. Fold uncovered portion of each pastry rectangle up and over filling. Use a fork to seal edges together. Brush tops with egg mixture. Cut decorative slits in top of each pastry for steam to escape.
7. Bake about 25 minutes, or until pastries are golden on both the top and bottom. If top browns more quickly than the bottom, cover with foil. Slide pies and parchment paper onto wire racks; cool slightly. To serve, cut crosswise into strips.
Yield: 12 slices.
Per serving: 360 calories, 26 grams fat, 56 mg cholesterol, 361 mg sodium, 21 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 2 grams sugar, 11 grams protein.
Make-ahead directions: Prepare as directed through Step 6, except do not preheat oven and do not brush tops of pies with egg mixture. Freeze pies on parchment paper-lined baking pans until firm. Wrap pies tightly with plastic wrap; overwrap with foil. Label and freeze for up to 2 months. To serve, thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Brush with egg mixture; bake and cool as directed.
Creamy Caramel Crunch Rolls
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, cut up
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 (16-ounce) loaves frozen sweet roll dough, thawed
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped honey-roasted peanuts
Lightly grease a 13-by-9-inch baking pan; set aside.
For caramel mixture, in a small saucepan combine the 1 cup brown sugar, the butter, whipping cream and salt. Cook and stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Pour into prepared baking pan.
On a lightly floured surface, roll each loaf of thawed dough to an 18-by-6-inch rectangle.
Spread each dough rectangle with half of the peanut butter, spreading to within 1/2 inch of edges.
In a small bowl, combine the 1/2 cup brown sugar and the cinnamon. Stir in nuts.
Sprinkle half of the nut mixture over each dough rectangle. Starting from a long side, roll up each rectangle into a spiral; pinch dough to seal seams. Cut each spiral into eight slices. Place slices, cut sides down, on top of caramel mixture. Cover and let rise in a warm place until nearly double in size (45 to 60 minutes).
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake about 40 minutes, or until tops of rolls are golden and edges are browned. If necessary to prevent overbrowning, cover rolls with foil after 30 minutes of baking. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Invert onto a serving platter. Serve warm.
Yield: 16 rolls.
Per serving: 355 calories, 13 grams fat, 32 mg cholesterol, 451 mg sodium, 51 grams car bohydrates, 2 grams fiber, 24 grams sugar, 8 grams protein.
Slow Cooker Overnight Breakfast Casserole
2 packages (12 ounces, each) breakfast sausage links
1 cup chopped green onions
1 sweet red bell pepper, chopped
1 can (4 ounces) diced mild green chilies
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 package (30 ounces) frozen shredded hash brown potatoes
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Cook sausage according to package directions; cut into 1/4-inch slices; set aside.
In a bowl, combine green onions, red pepper, chilies and cilantro; set aside.
Spray the interior of a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker with vegetable cooking spray. Layer one-third of the hash browns, sausage, green onion mixture and cheese into crock.
Repeat layers twice.
In a bowl, beat the eggs, milk, salt and pepper and pour over layered ingredients.
Cover and cook on low 7-8 hours, or until thermometer inserted into the center reads 160 degrees. Serve.
Yield: 12 servings.
Baked Blueberry Cream Cheese Croissants
8 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup yogurt, plain or flavored
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup blueberries (or raspberries and blackberries)
2 packages refrigerator crescent rolls
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In blender, blend cream cheese, yogurt, eggs, vanilla and sugar.
Roll up crescent rolls and arrange in two 8-by-8 baking dishes.
Divide blueberries and add to crescent rolls.
Pour blended mixture evenly over all. Bake 35-40 minutes.
Yield: 8 croissants.
Adapted from a recipe from Burroughs Family Farms
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
5 1/2 tablespoons (1/3 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/4 cup sour cream, at room temperature
2/3 cup milk, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract )
1 tablespoon baking powder
Pinch of kosher salt
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Place the rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with cooking spray, then dust with flour. Tap out the excess.
In a mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the egg and sour cream and mix until combined.
In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the milk and the vanilla.
In another bowl, whisk together the 2 cups flour and the baking powder. Add in the salt.
Turn the mixer on low speed and alternately add the wet and dry ingredients, starting and finishing with the dry ingredients, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl several times.
Spread the batter evenly into the prepared baking dish.
In another bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon until completely combined.
Add in the melted butter and stir until them mixture is completely moistened. Use your hands to roll the mixture between your fingertips until small balls form. Scatter the topping over the top of the batter in the pan, right from your hands as you roll it.
Bake about 30 minutes, or until the center is firm to the touch and it springs back lightly when pressed. If the cake is not done after 30 minutes, reduce the oven to 325 degrees and continue to bake in 5-minute increments until done.
Remove the cake from the oven and lightly dust with powdered sugar. Allow the cake to cool completely. Once the cake is cool, dust generously with powdered sugar again, slice and serve.
Yield: 12 to 16 servings.